In a letter to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick sent yesterday, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy implored his Governor to seek a change to the way Massachusetts fills Senate vacancies:
“It is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election.”
Legislative Democrats in the Bay State stripped the Governor’s office of the ability to quickly appoint a successor in 2004 when they feared that Republican Gov. Mitt Romney would get to fill the Senate seat if Sen. John Kerry won the Presidency. The current law in both states leaves the Senate seat empty while a special election is organized – between 145 and 160 days in MA and 150 days in CT.
Mr. Kennedy proposes that the Governor be allowed to appoint an interim replacement while the special election is held.
Sen. Kennedy’s arguments don’t just mirror those of Massachusetts Republicans from the ’04 debate, but also those who made the case against the Senate Vacancy bill in Connecticut earlier this year.
With major legislative initiatives under consideration – health care reform, for example – having an empty Senate seat could be a key factor in the decision-making process. Every state deserves to have “two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens” all the time.
But Democrat-controlled Legislatures in both states have largely ignored the ill effects of their actions to this point. More surprising is that they don’t seem to be chastened even as one of their Party’s giants, recognizing his own situation, makes the opposing argument.
It was the Connecticut Compromise, crafted by New Haven’s Roger Sherman and Windsor’s Oliver Ellsworth, that settled the representation question at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Under the deal, small states like Connecticut would have equal weight in the upper chamber of Congress by sending two people to the U.S. Senate while proportional representation would determine the makeup of the House of Representatives.
It is clear that Senator Kennedy, like those who opposed the original adoption of the Senate Vacancy bill, understand the importance of full representation in the U.S. Senate. It is hard to say the same about the elected officials who voted for it.